Choose Joy

Seeking Jesus in this crazy journey

The Greatest Gift

On May 30, 2017 I got home just in time for the doorbell to ring.  Probably the sweetest sound of my recent life.  In that little envelope, a letter “To the adoptive parents, Carey & Alissa Sanders”.  An official adoption order, with a judge’s signature and a date.  What a good, good sight to these anxious eyes.

We’ve been so (im)patiently awaiting this mail.  It had been in court for 12 weeks and 2 days.  Everyone we know (and many we don’t) had been keenly praying.  I’d been posting on adoption forums and emailing our workers for current timelines somewhat relentlessly, desperately hoping for encouragement that it would be soon.

It had been over a year since their Band released them for adoption, months since we’d signed finals, and yet the process was taking FOREVER.  They had been with us for 1245 days at this point.  They’d been in care, respectively, for 2346 and 1729 days.  They’d both been ‘adoptable’ from a legal standpoint for 1860  and 1368 – meaning they both could have been adopted before they were 2 years old.  They’d had another family fight to adopt them, unsuccessfully and with much heartbreak, prior to us stepping up over two years ago.  Our agonizing wait came to an end, because of a lot of advocating, intense documentation, and striving to keep their file on the top of the pile for each and every overloaded caseworker, supervisor, manager, advocate, band member, and judge.

And then it came.  They were adopted.  I read the two pages ten times.  The date.  The judge’s name.  The word ‘adopted’.  The fact that they are ‘Sanders’.  I cried happy tears and thanked Jesus.  We are forever.

There is so much gift in that alone.  There is assurance for them that they will never have to be moved again.  There is the gift of our kids, the unique and beautiful creation of our family.  (People say that “they’re so lucky to have you” but adoption is not lucky.  Kids go through a lot of brokenness to get to the point of needing to be adopted.  Do every foster and adoptive parent the favour of skipping the word “lucky” or “blessed” unless it’s that WE are blessed to have such beautiful kids. ||End Rant||)

But for us, there was this extra gift in the timing of getting these adoption orders.  The next day, we sat at the Cross Cancer Institute for 7 hours while numerous members of a multi-disciplinary team came in and did their questionnaires and assessments.  They used words like “goals of care” and “quality of life” and “palliative”.  We tried to figure out how to control the symptoms, manage the pain, and discussed (at my prodding) end of life.  She told me it would be realistic that I had less than a year to live and to do things “sooner than later” if they were important.

God knew how hard this appointment would be; it lacked any feelings of hopefulness or resilience.  And so the day before, he gave us a little package in the mail that radiated hope and joy.  It was a gift that we could cling to the next day during some of those hard moments and during discussions of so many unknowns.  One thing was certain; we know our family is secure.  We signed paperwork that listed our dependants and confidently checked off the box that they are legally adopted.  What a GIFT!!

And so again, as we step out of some of the darker days of our journey and in general reflect on the really hard parts of our story, we can say without any doubt that we are experiencing God’s hand of provision.  We are comforted again and again by his character – his sustaining power, his sovereignty, his love.  But this time he gave us a tangible (hold it and read it and keep it sacred) gift and we are so thankful.

Praise Jesus.

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Three months

Three months ago, two beautiful littles joined our family.  They instantly stole our hearts.  Sometimes attachment is hard, but this time it wasn’t.  We loved them – consciously, like you do when you’re fostering – but also unconsciously, with all the feels.  They fit in well; they were thriving and growing; we quickly developed good rapport with the workers and their family; we started sib visits, which were so fun and so good for all the kids.

We don’t know what their future holds right now or how it’ll be linked to ours.  That’s what we’re trying to wade into in the coming weeks, and we want to do it all right.  We want to be fair to their first family and act in the best interest of these littles’ long-term.  We want to be honest with ourselves and what we’re able to do and should commit to.  Honestly we want to hold on to them tightly and yet know part of foster care is keeping your hands open.

What we know is that God’s got really good plans for their lives and their forever family.  He already knows it all, and it is SO GOOD.  Isn’t there so much rest and joy in that?

I think I wanted to write this so as our life seems increasingly messy and out of control, I can look back and remember this season has been so intentional.

It’s been intentional in building our faith.  Coming to a point of saying yes, and even coming to a point of saying no – that takes listening to God and trusting him in really hard moments.

It’s been so meaningful to invest into the ministry of foster care that we value so deeply in a very intentional way, maybe one last time.  We had a chance to put action to the words that we are willing to make some sacrifices to care about the kids who are without a mom or dad.  We got to live out that we are pro-life, pro-birth family, pro-reunification, and pro-adoption.  We got to experience community (family, friends, and church) in a very significant way, as it would’ve been a hundred percent impossible for us to take on this fostering commitment alone, yet together, these precious kids got to stay together; they got family; and they got soooo loved.  (Thank you for being a part of that.)  And our boys got the privilege of temporary new siblings, the challenge to more selflessness, and a chance to see God’s Word lived out.

Lastly, we are really trusting God’s intentionality on the fact that these kids were in our home for a short while so they could soon be in their perfect forever home.  (I hope we get to see that and give God all the glory for it.)

All that to say, no regrets.


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Saying yes to a “bad idea”

In so many ways, we knew that agreeing to a new foster placement was a bad idea.  I’m doing chemo.  Sometimes I get sick.  I take a million naps.  It’s busy caring for our 2 and we’re already receiving a lot of help.  Our lives are busy with our current circumstances and our hearts our full, so why take on more.

When we got the first call for a new foster care placement, twin toddlers, we laughed.  We get a fair amount of calls and none of them have materialized, so we kind of put this out of our minds.

Two weeks later, we got the same call, but with a little more desperation and a lot more info.  We started praying.  We pleaded with God to speak to us clearly, to open or close the doors, to give us a united decision.

We talked to our people and processed the hesitations they shared.  “It will be a lot.”  Yes.  “Do you have enough energy?”  I don’t know.  “How will the boys do?”  Good question.

They were all good points that we’d thought about A LOT.  That we’d prayed about a lot.  Tears were shed thinking about saying yes and tears were shed thinking about saying no.  We thought about how it would effect us and our existing support system.

We processed these concerns with the workers along the way.  They thought they might have another family and we released the idea of these kids and told them to pursue their other leads.

It didn’t pan out.

We put in a request for supports and they said no.  We agreed that we couldn’t do it without some supports, so we released it a second time.

Then they came back and approved it.

It felt like we were laying out fleeces, like Gideon in Judges 6, and God was demonstrating his might and his control.  The kids were a good fit with our other kids’ ages, our giftings, and our passions.

We listened to sermons, read some books and blogs, and tried to listen to Jesus’ voice through it all. But our decision-making period was coming to a close.

We both felt like saying yes, but didn’t want to say yes on a whim or because we felt guilty or at the expense of our relationships.  Yet we both know the Bible is very clear about caring for the vulnerable and the orphaned.  We both know that God has clearly called us into the role of foster parents.

But was he calling us into it in this specific moment?

Here’s the things we realized.

We partner with a little community in the DRC.  We have visited and seen grandmothers caring for their grandkids.  You can’t tell me that the road they walk is easy.  They model what it looks like to care for orphans.  They show us what it is to sacrifice.  And they do it at a cost to themselves and their families.  We love them and support them, and we can’t say that in one sentence and then say that we aren’t willing to do similarly.  We don’t believe that the Bible’s call to care for the vulnerable or that the Gospel itself is written in terms of cultural context.  We know it and we are willing to take some steps to live it out more generously and sacrificially and joyfully.

We never felt a peaceful release from this specific calling.  And I may be sick, but I am not dead – so if we said no and if I live for 5 or 10 or 30 years, then I have to look back on this moment and give an account for my disobedience.  And my only reasons would be our own fear of the future.

We’ve prayed for physical healing for years.  And God has sustained my health faithfully.  There have been ups and downs, but we have praised him for his goodness in my health journey.  I sometimes question why I have not received full physical healing, and then I realized that saying yes to this placement could be a step of faith.  It could be God calling us to “step out of the boat onto water in which we will surely sink in our strength”.  But, oh!  We trust in a God who is so much bigger than our own strength or our own plans or our physical ailments.  He tells us to fix our eyes on him.  He tells us to focus on today and trust him for tomorrow.  He tells us to love God and love people.  So yes.  With my little sliver of faith, we said yes, and prayed that he would grow our faith through what we think is a little act of obedience.

And lastly, the need is there.  Carey said “If there were more people to do this, then maybe not.  But we’re not going to say no and see kids go to a group home or be split up.”  These sweet littles don’t get a say in their history or their future.  We have the ability to step up.  We actually have the privilege of stepping up.

And so I’d encourage you, especially those of you within the Church, to do as we did and think about what God is calling you into and process what makes it seem like the wrong timing or a “bad idea”.  Maybe, just maybe, hidden in there is an opportunity to step out in faithful obedience and experience a bit more of Jesus.

We did, yesterday, at 1:30 in the afternoon when we opened the door and welcomed two sweet new faces to our family.




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